Americans will sacrifice more to help Ukraine than most did for our own wars


In Russia’s war against Ukraine, many Americans will make sacrifices unlike any they have recently experienced in foreign policy. This cost is in stark contrast to the longest wars for which the United States had troops on the ground in harm’s way, in Afghanistan and Iraq. In each those wars, the military felt (often rightly) that they were fighting on their own. Now the hardship will fall on the public – even if U.S. troops aren’t ever in harm’s way. It’s a paradox, but most Americans will feel more of a personal impact from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine than they did during two decades of U.S. wars elsewhere.

People are already supporting Ukraine’s war effort, whether they want to or not, by paying higher fuel prices. Gas has reached record highs, and the United States has just banned Russian oil imports on top of that. It’s not clear when prices will go down, especially as the world deliberately ratchets up pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The economic war on Russia will reverberate throughout the West in other ways, too: Russia (and Ukraine) are major exporters of grains and metals, even though Russia is a relatively small player in global trade overall. Shipping costs will go up even more than they already had because of the pandemic. Inflation, already at levels unseen in decades, is likely to increase even more.

But those are all very different costs from the way citizens typically support a war effort that involves their own nation’s military: through service or through taxes to pay for the conflict. Neither was required of Americans during the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. Less than 1 percent of the population serves in the armed forces. The Watson Institute at Brown University found that between 1.9 million and 3 million U.S. troops served in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, many more than once. Since the United States has a population of over 300 million, only a fraction of a percentage of U.S. citizens faced battle.


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